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Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)



Blanding's turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) are listed as a Special Concern species in Wisconsin. They utilize a wide variety of aquatic habitats including deep and shallow marshes, shallow bays of lakes and impoundments where areas of dense emergent and submergent vegetation exists, sluggish streams, oxbows and other backwaters of rivers, drainage ditches (usually where wetlands have been drained), and sedge meadows and wet meadows adjacent to these habitats. This species is semi-terrestrial and individuals may spend a good deal of time on land. They often move between a variety of wetland types during the active season, which can extend from early March to mid-October. They overwinter in standing water that is typically more than 3 feet deep and with a deep organic substrate but will also use both warm and cold-water streams and rivers where they can avoid freezing. Blanding's turtles generally breed in spring, late summer or fall. Nesting occurs from about mid-May through early July depending on spring temperatures. They strongly prefer to nest in sandy soils and may travel up to 900 feet from a wetland or waterbody to find suitable soils. This species appears to display nest site fidelity, returning to its natal site and then nesting in a similar location annually. Hatching occurs from early August through mid-October. This species takes 17 to 20 years or more to reach maturity. See the species guidance document for avoidance measures and management guidance from the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

State status

Note: Blanding’s turtle was removed from Wisconsin’s Threatened list on January 1, 2014 per administrative rule ER-27-11. While the Blanding’s turtle no longer meets the scientific criteria for listing as Threatened, the population is vulnerable to harvest and collection. To address this, the department initiated a new administrative rule process (ER-30-13) to add the Blanding's turtle to the protected wild animals list and on rules impacting possession limits. Learn more.

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Emydoidea blandingii in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC/H
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3S4
Global RankG4
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

This document contains identification and life history information for Blanding's Turtle. It also describes how to screen projects for potential impact to this species, lists avoidance measures, and provides general management guidance.

Blanding's Turtle Species Guidance [PDF]




Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #9495]

Adult Female Blandings Turtle.

Photo by Rich Staffen, WDNR.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #9496]

Blandings Turtle Hatchling.

Photo by Rich Staffen, WDNR.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #9497]

Blandings Turtle hatchling.

Photo by Rich Staffen, WDNR.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #20745]

Photo © Brian Collins.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #1127]

Blanding's turtle.

Photo © G. Knudsen.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #10154]

Photo by Armund Bartz, WDNR.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22732]

Blanding's Turtle hatching

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22733]

Juvenile Blanding's Turtle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22734]

Blanding's Turtle plastron

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22735]

Blanding's Turtle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22736]

Blanding's Turtle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22737]

Blanding's Turtle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22738]

Blanding's Turtle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22739]

Blanding's Turtle basking

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22740]

Blanding's Turtle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #7683]

Male Blanding's turtle.

Photo by Drew Feldkirchner, WDNR.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #7685]

Male Blanding's turtle. Note the concave plastron.

Photo by Drew Feldkirchner, WDNR.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #7688]

Male Blanding's turtle.

Photo by Drew Feldkirchner, WDNR.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #2195]

Blanding's Turtle. Female egg laying.

Photo by Eric Epstein, WDNR.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #1027]

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22508]

Blanding's turtle

Photo © Brian Collins.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #22511]

Blanding's turtle plastron pattern, Pike Wild River

Photo © Brian Collins.

Blanding's Turtle  [Photo #9492]

Ryan Magana assisting Blandings Turtle across CTH F.

Photo by Rich Staffen, WDNR.

Wildlife Action Plan

Note: the information presented here comes from the 2005 Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan. The Wildlife Action Plan is currently under revision, so this page will be updated with new information before the end of 2015.

Native community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Blanding's Turtle. Only natural communities for which Blanding's Turtle is "significantly" (score=3) or "moderately" (score=2) associated are shown. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Blanding's Turtle. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Blanding's Turtle occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Conservation actions

  • Consider head-starting (i.e., the captive rearing of wild-produced hatchlings that grows them to a point of significantly reduced predation rates, typically for 10 to 11 months immediately following hatching) where recruitment is compromised. Initiate re
  • Implement drawdown management timing policy on all affected waters where Department of Natural Resources approval is required.
  • Long term protection and management of essential habitats is needed. Habitats must be sufficiently large and complex to meet all habitat needs, and not fragmented by roads and development.
  • Long-term monitoring of several small and large populations statewide is needed to help document status and trends.
  • Programs that provide economic incentives to landowners to restore wetland habitats, establish wetland buffers, and improve habitat connectivity should continue and expand.
  • Public education efforts about turtle mortalities along roads, including installing turtle crossing signs, are needed.
  • Recommend the installation of permanent underpasses and/or barriers for highway projects where Blanding's mortality is believed to impact species recovery.
  • Restore connectivity and quality of nesting habitats.
  • Restore drained wetlands.
  • Wildlife habitat in general is poorly represented in zoning and planning and major strides are needed in policy and education here.

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Threats and issues

  • Increases in nest predators associated with humans (coyotes, raccoons, skunks, etc.) may be significantly lowering nesting success.
  • The predicted warmer and drier climate in Wisconsin would reduce wetland habitat, increase the active season, and may change competitive interactions with other turtles.
  • Agriculture and urban sprawl have fragmented the landscape and increased traffic resulting in increased highway mortality, habitat loss, and lower recruitment rates (through loss of females and increased nest predation rates).
  • Wetland losses and degradation (especially from invasive species) have lowered carrying capacity.
  • Prescribed burns are known to cause mortality.
  • Winter drawdowns are known to cause mortality.
  • Stocking fish into natural wetlands without fish lowers the carrying capacity for turtles by reducing food resources. Blanding's are probably especially sensitive to fish stocking since they favor fishless wetlands.
  • Invasive wetland plants such as reed canary grass and giant reed grass lower habitat quality and turtle carrying capacity.
  • Pollution could very well be an issue for this long lived species that feeds in sediments, but there are no data available to evaluate this threat.

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Last revised: Tuesday, August 11, 2015